Research into improved animal performance shows that New Zealand can gain sustainable economic benefits and apply 'climate-smart' techniques identified by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
The latest New Zealand research published in the Journal of Animal Feeds, shows ways to improve animal health and deliver significant environmental gains right now. The Massey University study found significant improvement in health and weight in animals grazing a traditional mixed herbal pasture containing chicory, plantain, white and red clover mix as compared to a predominantly rye grass pasture. 
The UN's FAO report draws on lessons overseas to recommend the use of legumes as green manures where agricultural soils are depleted, as a way to boost soil nutrients and increase the yield of subsequent crops. The legume mixtures transfer up to 34% nitrogen to grass varieties and when used as a livestock feed increase food conversion ratios and decrease methane emissions.
"New Zealand needs to these adopt climate-smart approaches, but the government and industry players like Fonterra lack an integrated strategy to ensure we do," says Jon Carapiet from GE Free NZ (in food and environment).
"The findings from Massey signal that there are already smart ways to reduce methane emissions. Crop innovations like this must be disseminated to farmers but are being ignored in the hope of a magic-bullet GE crop."
New Zealand is in a unique position and cannot afford to ignore proven solutions to issues of climate change and sustainable agriculture.
"New Zealand science must reflect what our overseas markets demand which is sustainable, healthy, high quality grass-fed meat. This is key to the New Zealand Brand," says Jon Carapiet.
�In the last ten years GE plants have been found to be increasingly vulnerable to fungal disease and nutrient loss. GE crops have increased weed resistance to major herbicides and delivered poor crop growth in subsequent years," says Claire Bleakley, President of GE Free NZ.
"It is the high yield available from conventionally bred plant solutions that are our farmers' future. Public money should be put behind these existing solutions instead of attempting to genetically engineer one legume variety to carry the genetics of every other."
Jon Carapiet 0210 507 681
Claire Bleakley 06 3089842 / 027 3486731
In a new report, the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) stresses the need to transform agriculture and adopt 'climate-smart' practices, which use existing technology.
 Hutton PG., Kenyon PR., Bedi MK., Kemp PD., Stafford K., West D. and Morris S. (2011) A herb and legume sward mix increased ewe milk production and ewe and lamb live weight gain to weaning compared to a ryegrass dominant sward, Animal Feed, Science and Technology, vol:164:1:pp1-7. Feb 2011
 Turner S-A, Waghorn GC, Woodward SL, Thomson NA Condensed tannins in birdsfoot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) affect the detailed composition of milk from dairy cows Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production, Volume 65, pp 283-289, Jan 2005
 Woodward SL, Waghorn GC, Laboyrie PG Condensed tannins in birdsfoot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) reduce methane emissions from dairy cows, Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production, Volume 64, pp 160-164, Jan 2004
This study investigated the potential of a mixed herb sward to improve production of multiple-bearing ewes and their offspring compared to a ryegrass dominant sward. Forty four twin-bearing (twin) and 42 triplet-bearing (triplet) mixed-aged Romney ewes that were a maximum of 140 days pregnant (P140) were randomly allocated to one of two nutritional treatments being: a mix of chicory, plantain, white and red clover (Herb), or a ryegrass dominant sward (Ryegrass) to form the following groups: twin Ryegrass n=22, triplet Ryegrass n=20, twin Herb n=22 and triplet Herb n=22. Ewes and their lambs remained on these herbage treatments until 66 days after the mid-point of lambing (L66). By L66, ewes grazing the Herb treatment compared to ewes on the Ryegrass treatment were heavier (P<0.05; 70.9�1.17kg versus 66.1�1.15kg) and had higher (P<0.05) body condition scores (2.8�0.07 versus 2.4�0.07, respectively). Ewes grazing the Herb treatment produced more milk (P<0.05) at each of the three sampling periods (3137�161.3 versus 2613�148.1 at day 7, 3280�148.8 versus 2483�153.1 at day 14 and 3237�131.8mL versus 2428�136.2mL at day 21). Lambs from ewes grazing the Herb treatment were heavier (P<0.05) at L22 (10.36�0.274kg versus 9.29�0.272kg) and L66 (20.67�0.490kg versus 17.55�0.493kg). The higher live weights (LW) were due to higher (P<0.05) LW gains of Herb lambs between birth and L22 (298�10.8g/day versus 245�10.7g/day) and between L39 and L66 (268�16.2g/day versus 179�15.9g/day). Herb triplet-bearing ewes produced more (P<0.05) total lamb LW by L66 than Ryegrass triplet-bearing ewes (45.70�3.051kg versus 28.26�3.203kg, respectively). Results demonstrate that a herb sward mix can improve multiple ewe and lamb performance compared to a ryegrass dominant sward.